Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(2) 1253
(These minutes have been seen
by the Administration)

Ref : CB2/PL/PS/1

Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Public Service

Minutes of Special Meeting held on Wednesday, 11 February 1998 at 8:30 am in the Chamber of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon IP Kwok-him(Chairman)
Hon LEE Kai-ming (Deputy Chairman)
Hon CHENG Yiu-tong

Member attending :

Hon CHOY So-yuk

Members absent :

Hon David CHU Yu-lin]
Hon Mrs Elsie TU, GBM]
Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, JP]
Hon Ronald ARCULLI, JP] other commitments
Hon CHAN Wing-chan]
Hon Andrew WONG Wang-fat, JP]
Dr Hon Philip WONG Yu-hong ]
Hon Ambrose LAU Hon-chuen, JP]

Public officers attending :

Mrs Carrie YAU
Director of Administration

Mr Paul TANG
Deputy Director of Administration

Deputy Secretary (Civil Service)2

Clerk in attendance :

Mrs Sharon TONG
Chief Assistant Secretary (2)1

Staff in attendance :

Mr Colin CHUI
Senior Assistant Secretary (2)2

Mr Paul WOO
Senior Assistant Secretary (2)5

I. The meeting

1. The meeting was originally intended to be a joint meeting of the Public Service Panel and the Information Policy Panel. However, in the absence of a quorum for a joint meeting, members agreed that the meeting should be convened as a special meeting of the Public Service Panel.

II. Discussion with the Administration

(PLC Paper No. CB(2) 999(01) - Information paper on "Summary of Points on Re-organization of Bureaux Responsible for Information Technology-related Matters" tabled at the meeting)

2. Director of Administration (D of A) advised that the purpose of the meeting was to brief members on a restructuring exercise which aimed at rationalizing the responsibilities now divided among several Policy Bureaux in relation to information technology (IT) matters. The reorganization proposals were to give effect to the commitment made by the Chief Executive in his Policy Address to promote IT developments and for that purpose to commission one Bureau Secretary to lead and co-ordinate Government's overall efforts in those areas.

3. D of A explained the organizational changes that needed to be made. She said that the reorganization readjusted the portfolios of existing Bureaux rather than set up an additional one. Policy Bureaux which would be directly affected by this restructuring were Economic Service Bureau (ESB), Broadcasting, Culture and Sport Bureau (BCSB) and Finance Bureau (FB). The Administration had decided that BCSB should be restructured and renamed as Information Technology and Broadcasting Bureau (ITBB). While retaining the policy on broadcasting matters, the reorganized Bureau for IT would take over the responsibility for telecommunications and IT applications within Government, i.e. it would take over the Office of the Telecommunications Authority from ESB and the Information Technology Service Department from FB.

4. As part of the reorganization, BCSB's current responsibilities for arts, culture, sports and recreation would be transferred to the Home Affairs Bureau (HAB), since HAB's district-based network would help promote such activities. As for ESB, there would be no addition to its portfolios after the take-over of its telecommunications schedule by the new ITBB.

5. D of A informed members that the Administration was looking into the financial implications of the reorganization and the staffing support required to enable ITBB to discharge its functions effectively. Details of the staffing proposals were being worked out. The Administration intended to seek the Finance Committee's (FC) approval of the post creation proposals before the end of this financial year.

6. In response to members’ enquiries, D of A said that FB had made forecast provisions previously on the assumption that an additional new Bureau for IT would be established. Now with the decision that no additional Bureau would be set up, the reserved provisions available should be adequate to enable the Administration to implement the proposed changes. She added that the present restructuring involving mainly a reallocation of programme areas among Policy Bureaux should achieve policy objectives as well as satisfy the requirement of prudent use of public funds.

7. Miss CHOY So-yuk supported the proposal for a Policy Bureau with the designated function to take charge of Government's IT-related efforts. Yet, as regards the readjustment of policy areas between Bureaux, she queried as to why information policy still remained with the HAB. D of A replied that information policy and policy relating to IT developments could be viewed separately. The former was linked closely to human rights-related issues such as privacy, access to and dissemination of information and press freedom etc. These should continue to fall within the responsibility of HAB. On the other hand, formulation of policy relating to the steering and co-ordination of IT developments, such as the development of a common interface information infrastructure within Government, should come under ITBB.

8. Miss CHOY So-yuk opined that the separation of information policy from ITBB was unreasonable and at variance with the views and expectations expressed by concerned groups. She added that IT was something more than hardware development and policies relating to broadcasting and developments in IT invariably involved human rights considerations as well. She said that rather than dealing with these issues in a fragmented manner, ITBB should assume a more comprehensive role in formulating far-reaching and forward-looking strategies in both information policy and IT development matters. The Chairman agreed to Miss CHOY's views. He suggested that the Administration should further review the delineation of policy areas between HAB and ITBB.

9. D of A reiterated that as information policy and human rights-related issues had an important bearing on each other, it would be appropriate for HAB to take charge of developments in both areas. She assured members that while there might be intertwined areas of responsibilities between Bureaux in respect of certain matters, the Government would be taking a careful and balanced view on how the policy areas should be rationalized. She said that as the nature and complexity of responsibilities varied between Bureaux and Departments, there was no easy formula for a fair division of duties. The Administration was constantly looking at the job contents of Bureaux/Departments and reorganization exercises would be conducted as and when necessary, having due regard to policy considerations and other important factors such as distribution of workload, resource implications and public acceptability of any proposed structural changes.

10. D of A took note of members’ view that the roles of HAB and ITBB in relation to information policy should be reviewed. She said that more details regarding the functions of the two Bureaux would be reported to members when they were finalized. Adm

11. Members enquired of the working relationship between ITBB and other Bureaux in respect of IT-related issues. D of A replied that the relevant Policy Secretaries would liaise and co-operate closely on policy implementation, under clearly defined terms of reference. To ensure that important policy objectives would be achieved, existing mechanisms provided for the setting up of working groups and steering committees, where necessary, under the Chief Secretary for Administration's Office to co-ordinate efforts involving more that one Policy Bureau. These co-ordinating bodies provided an effective channel for views from different Bureaux to be put across and considered before decisions on particular policy issues were taken.

12. Regarding members’ concern that some of the licensing functions of Television and Entertainment Licensing Authority might have to be transferred to HAB, Deputy Director of Administration said that the proposal involved relatively straight-forward licensing functions relating to public entertainment, such as licensing of games halls and dancing schools etc. The transfer would not create a substantial increase in workload for HAB. He added that licensing matters relating to broadcasting and film censorship would remain the policy area of ITBB after reorganization.

13. On the question of manpower resources of the new ITBB, D of A advised that part of the manpower in the existing BCSB would be transferred to ITBB after the reshuffle. The Chairman pointed out that the last FC meeting of the Provisional Legislative Council (PLC) would be held in late March 1998. The Administration undertook to provide detailed information to PLC Members on the work and staffing requirements of ITBB before any post creation requests were made to FC for approval within the current legislative session.

III. Close of meeting

14. There being no other business, the meeting ended at 9:30 am.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
9 March 1998